Ecstasy: Li Bangyao Solo Exhibition
Curator: Ai Hai
2.4 - 3.13, 2021
Tang Contemporary Art Bangkok is delighted to present key works by Li Bangyao, created from 2007 to 2020, including the most recent pieces from his Indoors series and important works from his Personal Manual, Theory of Evolution, and Origin of the Species series. Works from his Ecstasy series will also be shown in this exhibition.
As one of China’s most important Pop artists, Li Bangyao focuses on the symbolic qualities of the structural systems of objects. Through the refinement of specific symbols for social development and everyday life, he deconstructs and encodes the personal aesthetics, collective memories, and social issues symbolized by objects in a visual language characterized by flat forms and clear outlines. Using Pop Art, he responds to Jean Baudrillard’s research into the shifting meanings of objects in a consumer society.
Origin of the Species and Theory of Evolution are important series in Li Bangyao’s study of object-symbols painted after 2005. In Origin of the Species, he selects for study typical, everyday consumer objects such as bicycles, sewing machines, kerosene lamps, and commemorative plaques from the 1950s to 1970s. He uses advertising methods and bright monochrome backgrounds to present consumer goods as the subjects of the paintings. The order of truth is transformed into the representation and image of a symbolic spectacle. Theory of Evolution juxtaposes grain ration tickets, purchase coupons, and neighborhoods developed by the real estate industry from the time of China’s planned economy, highlighting the changes in the mass consumer landscape as China modernized. This is a form of historical memory and a massive spectacle comprised of visual images produced by a consumer society.
Since 2009, Li Bangyao’s study of object-symbols has shifted toward the relationships between objects and households. With this in mind, his visits to many households have taken the form of field studies. He wrote, “The states of household objects still surprise me. When a family unit has a certain number of functional products, their use value fades, and they gradually become energy. They begin to manifest the individual’s spiritual energy, and the objects start to convey the owner’s dreams, memories, hobbies, and values. Because they have these living characteristics, the objects have a kind of warmth.” As Li has written, the compositions of Indoors allow viewers to savor the numerous object-symbols in family life, reflecting the cultural significance of this glimpse into household political economy. His Ecstasy series depicts the corners of interior scenes with the most consumer symbolism; objects such as dressing tables, fashion magazines, and makeup bags are placed in the images one by one. In contrast to his past two-dimensional works, his Personal Manual installations make use of digital monochrome etching on aluminum to create a sense of three-dimensionality. In this way, he further removes the functional and use value of objects to accentuate their aesthetic and cultural significance.
Today, the use and exchange value of objects have been transformed into symbolic value. How can we banish the specter of consumerism and resist the seduction of Jean Baudrillard’s ecstasy? Through the symbolic study of objects, Li Bangyao produces a mechanism for dialogue and generates an intermediate vehicle. The objects return to their ordinary state, regressing to a covert discourse and signifying something extraordinary.
b.1954, Wuhan, China
Li Bangyao was born in 1954 in Wuhan, China. He graduated from the Fine Art Department at the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 1978. From 1978 to 1992, he taught in the Applied Arts Department at the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts. He has taught at the School of Art at South China Normal University since 1993.
Li Bangyao is one of Chinese contemporary art’s most notable Pop practitioners. In a sense, his thirty-year career in art has reflected the shifts in Chinese modern art from Expressionism to Cubism, from Primitivism to Conceptual Art, and from Process Art to Pop Art. In the 1980s, Li participated in the ’85 New Wave as a member of the Hubei modern art group Tribe, Tribe. In 1986, Li Bangyao exhibited Mountain Spring, Langya Grass with Langya Grass and People on the Easel, and Accompaniment without Langya Grass at “The First Tribe, Tribe Exhibition” at the Hubei Institute of Fine Arts. His combination of naturalism and symbolism, as well as his interpretation of the relationship between nature and civilization, presented the evolution of humanity from remote antiquity into the future. In 1992, with the development of the market economy in China, Li Bangyao created his career-defining piece Product of Trust, which was shown that same year at the Guangzhou Biennial.
Li Bangyao’s recent solo exhibitions include “Li Bangyao: Forgotten Poems” (Jardin Orange, Shenzhen, 2020), “Indoors History: Li Bangyao” (The Barn Contemporary Art Space, Shenzhen, 2019), “ Li Bangyao: Looking for the Commonplace” (Redtory Museum of Contemporary Art, Guangzhou, 2019), “Indoors: Li Bangyao” (ODRADEK, Brussels, 2017), “Wuxiangzhi; Li Bangyao” (53 Art Gallery, Guangzhou, 2011), “Li Bangyao: The Archeology of Objects” (Deshan Art Space, Beijing, 2008), and “Li Bangyao: The Origin of Species” (Moon Gallery, Hong Kong, 2008).
His work has been exhibited at a parallel exhibition for the 2013 Venice Biennale, the Third Shenzhen Biennale of Contemporary Art, the Museu Oscar Niemeyer Curitiba, the Minsheng Art Museum Beijing, the Minsheng Art Museum Shanghai, the Guangdong Museum of Art, the Hubei Museum of Art, the Lingnan Museum of Fine Art, OCAT Shenzhen, the Mingyuan Art Museum Shanghai, and the Base Contemporary Art Museum Suzhou. His work has been collected by institutions and individuals from around the world.